Alyssia Hawk joined the Navy when she was 31yearsold. For her, it was a way to escape from the grief of losing a wife. Alyssia met her first wife when she was in seventh grade. They dated until she turned 18 and then got married. After her wife died, Alyssia decided to enlist in the Army like her father, brother, and granddad. In fact, she even took the test for the Army in 1997, but when she was told to come back in three weeks after the Thanksgiving holiday, none of the recruiters were there except for the Navy. The ambitious recruiter took all her Army information and signed her up for the Navy instead, which began a rewarding 14-year career.
When Alyssia entered the military she was cis male, and her original specialty was Rescue Swimmer. Later she became an Engineman but had trouble advancing so she cross rated over to Storekeeper (supplies and logistics). She was attached to three different ships over the course of her career and one of them was the USS Ingraham, home ported in Everett, Washington. While Alyssia was in Washington, she met and married her second wife.
One of the things that makes Alyssia come alive right now is her love for God. People question her connection to God because they don’t understand how she can be a Christian and transgender at the same time. Alyssia feels that she was born with a challenge and through God’s grace and strength she has met that challenge. Family is also important to her, and she loves her wonderful husband of four years. Moreover, she still maintains a relationship with her ex-wife with whom she adopted three siblings through foster care. Being a parent was one of the greatest gifts in her life. She is so proud of her kids who have also followed in the path of service by choosing careers in law enforcement, social work, and nursing.
Alyssia admits she was shy and withdrawn and that if she had been a 31-year-old cis woman going into any branch of the military, she would have had a very difficult time. She commented that she is blown away by the women she met in military who were simply phenomenal. These female service members were an inspiration to Alyssia for when she served in Iraq there were women, as she stated, who would give men a run for their money when it came to bravery and looking out for others.
Alyssia likes living in Nevada where she can adopt a slower pace. In Nevada, she has been able to start writing her first book entitled, Who Am I Really?, of which she is almost three-quarters of the way finished. Also, she says the VA benefits she receives in Nevada are far superior to any she received in California. She has better access to services through the VA Hospital in Southern Nevada whose primary care physicians are openminded and have taken the time to listen to her specific concerns and services for transgender related issues.
5 QUESTIONS FOR ALYSSIA
- Who was your greatest mentor that inspired you during your time in service and why? What did you learn from them that you still use today?
I had one particular mentor who I admired when I served in the Navy. His name is Mark Stone, and he was a UT1 (SCW). He and I are still friends. Mark demonstrated what it meant to be hardworking and dedicated. More importantly, he showed me how to care for those who work underneath you. Like him, I tried to treat the service members who served under me with equal respect. In fact, while I was in the Navy, one of the people who served underneath me actually surpassed me in rank. When you can see one of your junior people surpass you, it’s an incredible testament to one’s ability to teach and inspire others. I’m thankful I got to witness that advancement and be one of the people who encouraged them to excel.
Working hard, learning and passing on knowledge, and helping others advance is something I’ve continued to apply since leaving the military. For instance, after service I became a company truck driver and then eventually advanced to an owner operator, meaning I owned the truck I was driving. Later, I bought another truck and gave someone else the chance I was given. When I Ieft the trucking industry, I gave my entire business to the guy who was working for me. Continuing to encourage others and give them a leg up is something that I carry throughout my life.
- What are some challenges you have faced in the military and afterwards?
My second tour in Iraq was very difficult for me physically because I got hurt. Choosing to publicly come out as transgender to family, friends, and work was also challenging. At the time I was employed at Toyota where I started out changing oil and worked my way up to become an ASE Master Certified Technician. When I transitioned to transgender, they were so incredibly supportive. I came out to my boss and general manager as a transgender on a Thursday after work. When I arrived at work the next day, I went into the locker room that I had gone into for the last six years to find my locker had disappeared. I thought maybe I was fired, but instead my boss found me and told me that my locker was no longer in the men’s locker room but relocated to the women’s restroom. They also had a meeting for everyone in the shop and explained my transition as well as told employees that I was to be afforded the same respect as any other woman in the company and no whistling or catcalls would be tolerated.
- Looking back, what wisdom would you share with your younger self when you joined the military? Is there anything that you’ve forgotten that your younger self could teach you today?
When I joined the military, I was still a bit wild and rambunctious. At the time I was street racing motorcycles as a thirty-year-old man. If I could talk to the younger me, my words of wisdom would be: “Relax, breathe, and take every chance you feel you can take and make it the best opportunity you can have.” In fact, that’s what I’m trying to incorporate into my current life, learning to relax and enjoy life right now. In the past, I was always working so hard. At one point I was working two jobs when I was active duty Navy and then driving a big rig at night. So now it’s all about being with my family, spending time with my husband and doing things we enjoy like walking across the Golden Gate Bridge four times. Now we spend a lot of time going places we’ve never seen before such as Utah, Texas, and Missouri. We are really taking time to enjoy the second half of our lives.
On the flip side, my younger self would tell Alyssia, “Go for it. Just do it,” because now I tend to be a little more reserved and maybe not as much of a risk taker like I use to be in my thirties. When I was in the Navy, I was more apt to take on new risks like hiking to the top of Mt. Fuji when stationed in Japan.
- Where was the most beautiful place you visited during your military service and why?
In the Navy, I traveled extensively. Some of the places visited were New Caledonia; Seychelles, East Africa; Sasebo, Japan; and Adelaide, Australia. Every place we stopped, I spent time learning about the location and the culture. When I was in Boot Camp for the Navy, I made the decision to soak up as much as I could of different countries when we got to port instead of hitting the bars. I wanted to see what was out there because before the military, I had never left the state of California. For instance, I took the time to sit down with an official in Seychelles and ask her about what she liked and didn’t like about living there. I can still speak Japanese from the time I lived in Japan. Nevertheless, one of the most memorable ports for me, was Devonport, Tasmania where I was on the first U.S. warship to visit in 65 years. The people there greeted us with open arms, and many of the restaurants would feed us for free. However, it was the scenery that blew me away. It was so beautiful and picturesque there. It’s a place I would go back to in a heartbeat.
- What’s one important message you’d like to share with others?
I think the one thing that has remained consistent through my life whether I was a male or female is that if you give other people a chance they will support and encourage you. Just because I have a different mindset or experience hasn’t impacted the opportunity to reach out to people and receive the love and support, I needed.
From this experience of mutual support, I’ve learned that good always comes out something challenging. For example, when my first wife died after 11 years of marriage, it was deeply painful for me, but there was so much good that came out of that difficult loss and continues to enrich my life. In response to that pain, I joined the Navy and got to travel all over the world and connect with so many different types of people. More importantly, I got to serve my country and the United States Navy.
I’ve learned to trust the good that comes out of the challenging circumstances of my life and is reflected in one of the scariest prayers: “God use me and send me where you want me to go.” If you pray this prayer, then be sure to buckle up buttercup because it’s going to be a wild ride! It’s a frightening prayer because you don’t know where God is going to send you, but I’ve learned that if He sends you there, He will protect you.